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The Amazing Lunch

Feb

11

by

James Randi bets $1 million against homeopathy, buys me a sandwich

“I like to think they keep a Filipino virgin locked up in the back who makes the rice pudding.”
- James Randi

I met up with legendary magician, skeptic, prolific debunker of nonsense, and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation last Friday in Ft. Lauderdale, FL to shoot the below video challenge to manufacturers and retailers of homeopathic “remedies”:

The footage was then downloaded by JREF’s Sadie Crabtree in Los Angeles, edited and posted to the Web on Saturday at 10:23 a.m. in support of the global homeopathic “medicine” overdose The 10:23 Challenge. And now it’s been seen by people worldwide via the LA Times, NPR, Forbes and Wired.uk, with over 91,000 views on the YouTubes.

The challenge is that anyone who can prove the efficacy of homeopathic treatment will collect the cash. Randi’s money is safe. Homeopathic “remedies,” as described in the video, are diluted with water until no molecules of the “medicine” remain. It’s just water. Like JREF’s other Million Dollar Challenge, for proof of paranormal phenomena, no one will ever collect. “It will never happen,” Randi assured me.

How I came to shoot the video is a marvel of modern communications technology. @BfloBeast follows @JREF on the Twitters; @JREF tweeted that they needed a hand with a secret project in Ft. Lauderdale; knowing I was in the area, The BEAST’s intrepid Josh Bunting sent me an e-mail which I read on a smart phone at the beach.

“It’s amazing how this worked out,” I said to Randi.

“No,” he corrected. “I’m amazing.”

And he is. I was having problems because the teleprompter hood wouldn’t reach the camera, so he bounded to his office and returned with some paper clips and rubber bands, and MacGyvered the thing in a minute flat.

Chemotherapy may have taken his top teeth, but cancer couldn’t stop the man and, despite some frustration over his toothless articulation, he nailed the video like a pro — just in time to take me to lunch and then walk over to the local news channel to debunk a grainy Youtube “demon.”

He drove us in his tiny, turquoise two-seater to the classic Lester’s Diner, home of the “14 ounce cup”. I told him about The BEAST’s little Lily Dale prank, and how one of the mediums claimed that Randi was Bunting’s deceased grandfather because we showed her this poorly Photoshopped image:

“I don’t recall ever having children,” Randi said with a smile. “Or being married.”

He ordered the meatloaf, and I chose the corned beef sandwich. While we waited for our food, Randi performed a magic trick involving a coin, some napkins and a disappearing salt shaker (I’d tell you how the illusion works, but then I’d be in violation of Magic Law). He periodically watched the TV in the corner and commented on the state of affairs in Egypt, and imparted random facts about synthetic, “left-handed” sugar and the origins of corned beef.

“So you’re…friends with John Stossel?” I asked. He is. I wanted to tear into Stossel, for his egregious “free-market” worship and his flippant dismissal of climate change, but I couldn’t make my mouth form the words. Randi’s too damn cute to argue with in person. He looks like a little spider monkey with Darwin’s head. Even though it had everything to do with what we were talking about, I let it go. (For the record, Stossel is still a colossal asshole.)

What we were talking about was confirmation bias in the Internet age. We’re concurrently awash in information and a paranoid distrust of basic science. Reading some of the comments and posts about JREF’s challenge, or any climate change article, will show you exactly what I mean. From an idiot commenter on Discovery News:

Clearly the author of this article was motivated by some larger organization. Drug-pushing pharmaceutical groups, anyone? And the James Randi Educational Foundation isn’t exactly a trusted source for health-related matters. Sorry, but this article is useless.

Or this monumental failure of thinking at some Web site called Natural News:

But getting back to water and vibrations, which isn’t magic but rather vibrational physics, you can’t overdose on a harmony. If you have one violin playing a note in your room, and you add ten more violins — or a hundred more — it’s all still the same harmony (with all its complex higher frequencies, too). There’s no toxicity to it.

The stupidity is stunning. If someone wants to hear about the climate change “hoax” they go to Fox News. If they want to read how MMR vaccines give children autism, they go to the Huffington Post, whose “Wellness Editor” holds a “Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and a Doctorate in Homeopathic Medicine.” Not a joke.


This article was supposed to be about my cool experience hanging out with an awesome dude, facilitated by incredible technology, but I’m plagued by a sense of shame and intellectual embarrassment. That there’s a real need for people like Randi to tell people that water is not medicine is just depressing. And that pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens actual sell this homeopathic crap is doubly so.

I prefer Randi’s challenge to a mass “overdose” because no one should give their money to homeopathic frauds. We did eventually hear back from one of the 10:23 organizers and they basically just said that they think it’s worth it to buy products in order to convince other people not to buy them.

As of this writing, all inquiries sent to CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens remain unanswered. They hate us. They hate you. Do not shop there.

So in conclusion, Lester’s rice pudding is delicious. And it may or may not be made by an enslaved Filipino virgin. It’s a mystery.

__________

^^^^^^^^^^
Possible ad for useless homeopathic products. Click; do not buy ; )

  • http://www.cinemasucks.com/ Mike C.

    Randi is an asset to skeptics, but the glibly racist Filipino remark obliges me to stab him in the dick if I run into him in person.

  • http://www.mikeycosm.org Mike Kirby

    The condescending, smug attitude doesn’t help, either, even if the facts are on his side.

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  • Doug A.

    Lester’s diner does indeed have wonderful rice pudding.

  • admin

    Dear Mike C.,

    Is it the “locked up in the back” part that makes it racist? Would a “German virgin locked up in the back” be racist? I’m really not seeing this alleged racism. Is there some kind of Filipino rice pudding stereotype I’m not aware of?

    Knowing a little–very little–about Ft. Lauderdale yachting culture, where entire Filipino crews live below deck, the ever-ready servants on call, I could stretch Randi’s remark into some slight, casual racism. However, I honestly don’t think Randi has a hateful bone in his body.

    I just thought it was an interesting comment, and I wouldn’t have reported it if I’d known Filipinos could read.

    See, that was racist, Mike.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Mike Kirby,

    Firstly, I fail to see Randi’s supposed smugness. Did you get that from the video or my reporting? Secondly, fuck you and every framing-obsessed, we-must-grant-all-opinions-deference-and-respect-no-matter-how-ridiculous-they-are wannabe marketeer of the prevailing scientific consensus. Really. Fuck you. Like I said, I don’t get that vibe from Randi, but people who believe in vibrating magic water medicine deserve a second helping of condescension. And contrary to your anemic view of persuasive discourse, outright derision of ludicrous ideas and the people who hold them in their tiny fucking brains may actually help quite a bit.

    But, you know, that’s just what I think. And what do I know? I’m only much smarter than you, after all.

  • http://www.cinemasucks.com/ Mike C.

    It’s not about hate, it’s about representation (or lack thereof), and the propagation of stereotypes. Not pudding-related specifically (Filipinos aren’t major pudding people, though, unless you count flan or coagulated blood), but the singling out of otherness, and connotations of subservience, and passivity. The only passive Filipino chicks you’ll meet are looking for a green card — that’s about it. The rest have a humbling power to make you regret being born.

    Being treated as second class citizens in the past, subject to segregation and anti-micegenation laws, and having few options but jobs as servants and migrant farm workers, while never having much mainstream presence as actual, dimensional Americans, has made every little remark count (to them; the remarkers just teehee and move on to thinking about cake and porn).

    Folks like Manny Pacquiao and apl.de.ap (Black Eyed Peas) have helped (Dante Basco did not), but there’s a long way to go before they (and other minorities that don’t see themselves having dimensional representation in the arts and media) will be satisfied (and justly so). Imagine if the ONLY time the Irish were mentioned was in reference to Lucky Charms. It happens, but there’s other stuff to counterbalance it.

    Not so for many ethnic groups.

    My earnestness is starting to make me queasy, so I’ll return to being full of shit soon.

  • admin

    Mike C.,

    Don’t use your Filipino magic on me! All I want is my cake and my porn. But, I got ya’: sensitivity and an unthinking disregard for that sensitivity is the root of your “racism.” I guess I can see that, but I refuse to damn Randi for your sensitivity. I’m in the Lenny Bruce camp on this issue, and everyone who disagrees with me is probably a dumb Pollack.

    Truly, and Mayor Bloomberg can back me up on this ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/nyregion/12irish.html?src=twrhp ), not much is mentioned about the Irish, as a group, beyond Lucky Charms and whiskey. This doesn’t bother me because JFK was president or something, I guess, would be your take on that.

    But I think we can all agree that the albinos must be stopped from sullying our human women. And don’t get me started on how silly women can be!

    Although your earnestness is slightly off topic, it’s refreshing as a cool gallon of whiskey on a foggy-moss morn’.

  • Joseph Sciortino

    Doesn’t Randi deny global warming?

  • admin

    Randi’s position on AGW from Bunting’s second link: “As I’ve indicated, I do not deny the finding of GW. AGW, to me, is less clear, though I accept that it is likely true.”

  • rini6

    The fact that homeopathic (read placebo medicine) is sold next to real over the counter medications and in the same section and in similarly shaped boxes, is an abomination. If you are not careful you could be treating a yeast infection with a cream that doesn’t do anything but moisturize.

  • now seriously

    Perhaps it’s from so many pharmaceuticals introduced for marketing reasons not to address the patient’s needs that so many are driven to try alternative medicines. If modern medicine and science want their credibility back they’ll have to find some way to take a united stand against the pharmaceutical industry and it’s wasteful practice of advertising to the public when it should be the Health Care Provider who recommends any necessary treatment, medication or other.

    The doctors who have my trust and faith are the ones who actually utilize alternative medicine which they, with their vast medical education have determined to be efficacious. Wouldn’t you rather have a doc who investigated all options for you?

  • jeff vance

    The problem with Randi and any of his challenges is that they are front-loaded with the very stipulations that render his “challenges” intact.

    Homeopathy is not “removing all molecules of the medicine in the water”, and in fact, removing the trace elements renders homeopathy inert. SO he wins by setting up rules that ensure failure. He does the same with overunity by insisting there is no vacuum or pressure systems.

    He is not only a con, he is a cons’ con. He would never offer money for reality, such as this:

    • http://nanobotswillenslaveusall.wordpress.com/ Josh Bunting

      @jeff vance:
      “Homeopathy is not “removing all molecules of the medicine in the water””

      This is not true.

      “Liquids are diluted with alcohol (ethanol), water, or alcohol/water mixtures, whereas insoluble powders are diluted with lactose (milk sugar).
      Many homeopathic remedies would be expected to contain zero molecules of the original substance”

      (source)

      That’s a pro-homeopathy website, by the way. Even they admit to it. You alt-med types are fucking liars and frauds, and you know it.

  • anteprepro

    What the fuck is vance’s vidja supposed to prove? That homeopathy is real solid science-based medicine because of a spinning piece of tinfoil?

  • John

    I recall an occasion a few years back when James Randi was shown to be mistaken about something. I don’t remember now what it was, but his response was something like “see, that’s why you need to be skeptical of supposed experts.” He’s not asking people to believe everything he says; he wants people to think critically.

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